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Auto Solutions launches virtual sales platform

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Still selling: Auto Solutions sales associate Terry Hodgson, left, delivering a new car to a customer (Photograph supplied)

Auto Solutions is enabling prospective customers to “kick the tyres” of new vehicles from their own home as the company grapples with pandemic-related restrictions.Customers can view cars in the lot outside at the Pembroke distributor, but they are not permitted to open the car door to look inside. The hope is that the showroom itself will reopen during the second phase after lockdown, expected this month.In the meantime, to help boost sales, Auto Solutions has introduced a virtual sales platform. “This is a first for us,” said Glen Smith, the company’s managing director. “It was relatively easy to set up.”Auto Solutions can provide photos and a video walk-through of their vehicles.When customers choose something, all paperwork including quotes, and financial transactions can be handled online.“We still have to take all the necessary documents by hand to TCD in order to license a new car on Bermuda roads and collect the motor vehicle licence which is placed on the car windshield,” Mr Smith said. “But other than that everything else is done online. We are pleased to be working closely with TCD over the duration of this pandemic and greatly appreciate the efforts and consideration they have given to us enabling us to license vehicles and put them on the road for our customers.”When the purchase is done Auto Solutions can deliver the vehicle to the customer’s home, following strict social-distancing guidelines.Mr Andrews said some form of virtual sales had been in the works for some time.“Covid-19 put things on fast forward,” he said.Sales have been hit by the impact of the crisis, Harry Andrews, operations manager, said.“We have seen a bit of a mix,” Mr Andrews said. “Some people are delaying their purchase because of the current situation and some people have had to drop out.”Mr Andrews estimated that about 2 per cent to 3 per cent of would-be buyers have cancelled their car purchase from Auto Solutions since the crisis began in March.“We are refunding their deposit in good faith,” Mr Andrews said. “It’s because of the financial times as they are. We have left the door open for them. We have told them when they are ready we will be here.”They aren’t alone in their struggles. Car sales have plummeted worldwide due to Covid-19 lockdowns. Toyota in Japan has warned of an 80 per cent collapse in its operating profits over the next 12 months.They are already seeing that the pandemic and the resulting financial strain, is impacting customer preference. “We have been starting to see a trend where some people are looking at smaller vehicles,” Mr Andrews said. “Some people are looking to downsize so we are ordering accordingly to make sure we have that kind of inventory. Our trends here are pretty flowing. One month here can be different from the next. And colour trends change quickly. It is a challenge to get the right stock mix, but it is something that we work hard on.”Auto Solutions has a storage facility in New Jersey where they are keeping stock awaiting shipment. Auto Solutions has been using the Oleander to bring in vehicles for the last five years, so customers don’t have long to wait for a car if it isn’t already in stock in Bermuda. “That is a big thing for customers who are desperate for a vehicle,” Mr Smith said. “We don’t have to wait for the car ship, which at the moment doesn’t look like it will be arriving in Bermuda until the end of July. “If we have the car inventory in Bermuda and client has their paperwork and financing in place we can turn the car around in 24 to 48 hours best-case scenario. However, if the client wants a car that we have in stock at our New Jersey facility where we store the majority of our cars we can have it here in seven to 14 days.”The parts and service side of the business has now reopened, and the service side is busy. Mr Smith was particularly proud that Auto Solutions donated 5,000 protective face masks to the Ministry of National Security, with his other business, ZipX donating the same amount. “We were able to source masks and provide the community with 10,000,” he said.• Auto Solutions has a website at www.autosolutions.bm

Auto Solutions sales associate Terry Hodgson, right, delivering a new taxi to a customer (Photograph supplied)